Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Consciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • Combat Patrol(TM) Commandos

    Posted By on January 19, 2019

    Early in the game, commandos run into a German patrol.

    Last night at our club night, Greg and I ran a commando game using Combat Patrol(TM).  We are trying to work up rules for sentries and commandos to put into a free supplement.  For purposes of this supplement, the attacker is referred to as “commando” regardless of nationality.  Bottom line: it worked okay for a first run, but we have some work to do.

    The Commandos spotted a roving patrol and the sentries by the guard shack.

    This scenario involved British Commandos (Guts: E, Accuracy: E, Melee: 2, Endurance: 3, Reaction: 4) attacking a chateau in France to kill or capture a high-ranking officer.  The Germans (Guts: R, Accuracy: R, Melee: 1, Endurance: 3, Reaction: 3) had two teams (5 figures each) that were in fixed positions, three on roving patrols, and two pairs of sentries in fixed positions.  The Commandos were in six, two-figure teams.  This gave them maximum flexibility, but also made it difficult, when the fur began to fly, to mass fires.  The Commandos also had three “Where’s my card?” counters that they could play if the reshuffle card came up before either card of a given number was drawn from the Activation Deck.  Greg played the Germans and worked off of a small board, so the game was “double blind.”

    I let the Commandos enter anywhere they wanted on one of the short table edges.  They had to kill or capture the high-ranking officer and exit off the other short table edge.  The table was roughly five feet by three feet.  I used the spotting rules and night rules from the FREE optional rules supplement.

    There German patrol spotted some movement they thought were the enemy in the woods. Because the alert level didn’t allow the Germans to shoot, they moved forward to enter into hand-to-hand combat. The Commandos easily dispatched the first two Germans, but the alert level was raised. The two Commandos activated next, dashed out into the open to engage the rest of the patrol, killing two more. The alert level was raised further, but it still wasn’t high enough to allow the Germans to shoot. The last member of the patrol was killed in hand-to-hand combat as well. At this point, the Commandos had killed one of five German teams, and I was worried the game was going to be lopsided.

    The driving mechanic of the Commando games is the notion of an alert level (AL), which started and 1 and could go up or down based on different events.  The table was divided into a 3×5 grid.  When the AL reaches certain thresholds, the Germans are allowed to take different actions.  For instance, when the AL reached 5, the sentries were allowed to be more active.  At 10, the fixed German units were released to move toward “sounds.”  At 15, the Germans could begin for fire.  At 20, the German reinforcements would arrive.  On the drive home, I also thought that at 30, the Germans could kill the prisoner.  These thresholds are set before the game, but they can be different from game to game.

    If Commandos and Germans were in adjacent zones, the AL increased by 1.  If they were in the same zone, the AL increased by 2.  Until the AL reached 10, the Commandos used a modification to the normal melee procedure.  The Commandos couldn’t apply the HtH modifier for their weapon unless they decided to fire during the melee, which would increase the AL.  If the Commandos lost a hand-to-hand, the German player drew a card from the Action Deck to determine if the Commando was wounded or incapacitated like normal.  In either case, the AL increased by 1.  If the Commando won the melee, he too drew card from the Action Deck to determine the result.  If the German was incapacitated, the AL remained the same.  If the German was wounded, he was incapacitated anyway, but the AL increased by 1.  Also, if the hand-to-hand occurred within sight of another German who wasn’t incapacitated during the same activation, the AL increased by 1.  The first three times that small arms fire occurred, regardless of who fired, the AL increased by 2.  In subsequent activations, if the Commandos fired their weapons, the AL increased by 1.

    Two Commandos got across the open, spotted the Germans in the chateau, and ducked for cover in the small courtyard. Unfortunately, by that time the AL was high enough that one of the patrols began moving toward the activity and spotted the Commands. The German patrol activated before the Commandos could melt back into the darkness, and the Germans wiped out the pair.

    To encourage the Commandos to exercise some stealth, on turns in which none of the Commandos were spotted, the AL decreased by 1.  There was a point after the first German patrol was killed that the Commandos might have concealed themselves back into the woods, but they unluckily ran into a patch of woods occupied by a fixed German unit.  So, instead of decreasing the AL, a melee occurred, which eventually drove the AL to a level that allowed the Germans to begin shooting.  After this point, the German combat power continued to increase as more and more units arrived and more shooting occurred.  Eventually, the AL got high enough that a nearby Pz. 38(t)  arrived on the scene.

    Another German patrol heads to the sound of the guns.

    A high point for the Commandos came when the 38(t) moved into the courtyard of the chateau.  One of Duncan’s Commandos was caught in the open.  This is the one we dubbed “Mac the Knife” from all the Germans he had incapacitated in hand-to-hand combat.   All of the Commandos was equipped with a satchel charge.  Mac the Knife assaulted the tank, got a penetrating hit, and brewed up the tank.  This of course increased the alert level, but was a major morale boost for the Commando players who were watching their forces get attritted.  The smoke from the burning tank also provided some concealment for the Commandos from the Germans in the upper rooms of the chateau.

    Mac the Knife takes out the German tank with a satchel charge.

    We played a few more turns, but the Commandos just didn’t have enough men left to even get to the high-ranking officer.  The Germans began the game with 30 figure and ended with 10.  The Commands began the game with 12 figures and ended with 2.  This was a first play test of a scenario that has so much randomness that it is probably impossible to completely balance, but this particular instance hinged on the Commandos unluckily running into the German patrol early on turn 2.  I the patrol had moved in the opposite direction, if the Commandos had chosen a different entry point, if the Germans had failed to spot, the Commandos might have slipped past, and the game might have been lopsided in their favor.  The AL mechanic seems to work.  The Commands had a good time, despite being defeated.

    While Commands were dying in France, Zeb Cook was running a Finland Winter War 1939 game on the other table.  Below are some pictures.  From the whooping and hollering, the game seemed to be a lot of fun, and I really like the look of his table.

    WWII Americans in Greatcoats

    Posted By on January 15, 2019

    I have been painting a bunch of figures in greatcoats lately.  First, they are relatively easy to paint.  Second, they look a little different that other figures on the table.  So I finished two squads of infantry.  The nice this about the Artisan figures is that they come in full squad packs.

    One of two squads of infantry I finished. After taking these pictures I put small patches of snow on the bases of one squad and small rocks on the other to distinguish them from the squad I completed some weeks ago. This makes it easier for players to find their squads when the figures get mixed up during a game.

    Two bazooka a teams and a machine-gun team from Crusader.

    The platoon headquarters with a Konflikt 47 Mudskipper.

    For Christmas, a buddy gave me the Konflikt 47 Mudskpper kit from Warlord.  It was fun to assemble and will enable me to run a few “weird war” games.  I’ll bet the Americans wished they had one of these on New Years Even when they were facing the space aliens!  The Mudskipper is my submission for this month’s Azazel’s challenge (https://azazelx.com/2018/12/24/january-2019-paint-challenge-terrain-centrepiece-models/).

    A dwarf with a portable catapult.

    When I am painting a batch of like figures, I usually put a handful of random figures on the table at the same time.  Sometimes I just use them as a place to apply leftover paint on the pallets.  This time I had this dwarf and the Lara Croft looking figure on the table, so I finished them at the same time.

    Lara Croft, I guess.


    I DID get a little painting done

    Posted By on January 5, 2019

    I focused on actives with family and friends over Christmas and New Years, but I did get a few things painted.

    The first were eight Copplestone Cossacks that I found in a flea market bin.  I will use these in my Retreat from Moscow games.

    The next batch are a number of fantasy ducks (and other critters) from Star Hat Miniatures in New Zealand.  From previous posts, it is clear that the quirkiness of ducks appeals to me.  I bought into this Kickstarter, and I received my ducks a couple of months ago.  I finally got around to paining them.  I was looking for something a little different after 100 WWII 28mm Russian WWII infantry.

    The non-ducks in the Kickstarter.  The goat with the battle axe guitar is interesting.


    The back of the Jacobite looking duck.  I had fund painting the plaid on him.

    Ducky Chan, Doctor Who, and two others.


    The two on the right are among my favorites.

    I really like Friar Duck, second from the left.

    The duck on the right wielding a baguette quacks me up!

    Now it’s time to work on WWII ETO Americans in greatcoats for Combat Patrol(TM).

    Combat Patrol on New Years Eve

    Posted By on January 2, 2019

    Early in the epic struggle in Granville, IL, between the American Army and space aliens.

    Since 2009, we have been hosting a war-game on New Years Eve.  I don’t find New Years Eve a compelling holiday, and I don’t feel like sharing the road with a bunch of drunk people, so we start gaming around 1500 and end a little after midnight, which gives everyone time to get home before the craziness beings.  We usually make the games light, often Christmas themed.  The first game last night was a GASLIGHT game centered around the movie A Christmas Story in which two groups of characters from the movie competed to round up items from the movie, such as the Red Ryder BB gun and blue bowling ball, while the town was being invaded by zombies.  For this game, I set up my Granville, Illinois, town that I use for my pulp and gangster games.

    The second game used the same terrain, since it takes a couple of hours to set up.  This time, American troops were defending the town against an attack by space aliens.  In the picture above, you see a crashed space ship in the foreground.  The aliens landed and advanced toward the ship.  The device in the foreground is the macguffin.  The aliens have to get to it and destroy it.  Why not nuke it from space?  The aliens had to make sure that the Americans hadn’t already found and exploited the device.

    This doesn’t really follow any narrative, but it is meant to provide a bunch of eye candy.

    The diner where not too much action took place.  You can also see the trailer park in the distance.

    Two of my buildings.

    Early in the game, the Americans advanced a bunch of cars from the drive-in theater to block the path of the alien tanks down two of the roads.

    American infantry took up positions in two department stores. You can see where the Americans have parked cars in the road to block the path of the alien tanks.

    An American tank gets brewed up by the aliens.

    The aliens did a nice job maneuvering their tanks and infantry together up the roads agains the American opposition.

    Early in the game: the aliens are just beginning to advance.

    A long shot of the table before the game kicked off.

    Another view of the table before the action.  It took several years to build up the town a few buildings at a time.

    A swell GM helping to resolve indirect fire.

    Early in the game. You can see the initial alien dispositions.

    Giant-sized aliens and armored infantry advance up the road with tank support.

    Another view of the table without troops.

    Yet another view.

    A space alien tank advances put he road toward the Americans. These tanks were made from cheap, soft plastic tanks in a bag of green army men from the dollar store.

    An American anti-tank gun takes up position in the school yard. It had a limited field of view and was unable to penetrate the front of the alien tanks.

    Another view of the table in the middle of the action.

    Americans advance from the school yard and town hall to take up positions in the down town area.

    Another view of the initial dispositions of the aliens.

    After being hit by HE from an alien tank, the American anti-tank gun had to pull back deeper into the school yard to seek cover.

    An American Sherman crashes through the fence of the drive-in theater to take up a firing position.

    Alien armored infantry in the background and worm infantry in the foreground advance on the Americans.

    A scrum taking shape between American in and on the building on the left and the advancing alien infantry.

    The game went well.  The Americans had lots of opportunities to knock out the alien tanks, but they had bad luck, missing almost every shot.  While the Americans tore up the alien infantry on the American left flank and delayed the alien infantry on the American right, the aliens knocked out all but one American tank and drove relentlessly to the objective.  Combat Patrol worked fine for a science fiction game.  It was a nice way to spend New Years Eve.

    Russian Buildings for 28mm Skirmish Games

    Posted By on December 6, 2018

    My buddy Ma’k was harassing me last night about not having posted anything to my blog in a while.  I have been crazy busy with work and trying to live up to my commitments for the Albedo Combat Patrol Kickstarter, so I have done very little hobby work for myself.  In fact, I even sent some figures off to a painter, which I rarely do, because I was worried I wouldn’t get to them in finite time.

    A long shot of the Things from the Basement Russian buildings

    Several of us in the HAWKs have decided to make 2019 our Barbarossa theme year.  While running other games, we will also run a batch of Barbarossa games in both 28mm and 10mm.  To that end, I have been painting Russian infantry, tanks, and now vehicles. At Fall In last month, I picked up several buildings from Things from the Basement.  Working a little bit each night, I was able to finish them up yesterday.

    The Russian farm from Things form the Basement.

    The instructions on the Web page were for 15mm buildings, but they applied equally to the 28mm ones.  The kits went together easily.  Mine aren’t as colorful as the ones on the Things from the Basement web page, but I am reasonably happy with the results.

    Two more buildings with a 1:48 T-34/76 fo scale.

    Additional buildings.

    I had some old Hovels (I think) Russian buildings I had purchased for my Battle of Peoter’s Pig skirmish game.  I was happy to see that the scales are close enough that I can put them on the table with the newer buildings.

    Things from the Basement building (left) and two older Hovels buildings.

    For my buildings I was looking for a weathered, rural, poor look, and I think I achieved that.  I think to have an award-winning table, I am going to have to add some color.  I am thinking bout painting the roof of the church light blue like the one on the Things from the Basement web page.

    HAWKs Wargaming Calendar for Sale

    Posted By on November 14, 2018

    The Harford Area Weekly Kriegspielers (HAWKs) have created a wargaming calendar on Zazzle.com.  It is full of high quality images of games the HAWKs have run at conventions.  The dates of conventions that were known when we created the calendar are annotated on it.  Don’t miss out on this really neat calendar.  Proceeds support the HAWKs Armies for Kids project, in which we provide painted armies, rules, etc. for kids to take home and play with their buddies.

    The calendar is available here:  https://www.zazzle.com/hawks_2019_miniatures_gaming_wall_calendar-158945036899989441

    Vehicles for “Technical November”

    Posted By on November 5, 2018

    November’s challenge in Azazel’s Bitz Box is “technical,” meaning vehicles.  I already had a bunch of Russian 1:48 scale tanks awaiting painting, and I intended to post those.  I also wanted to do something “new,” started after the announcement of the challenge.  So I decided to create two science fiction tanks for my Combat Patrol science fiction games.

    I started with some cheap plastic tanks that came in a bag with some poorly sculpted and molded green army men.  Then I built up the super structure to make them look like assault guns.

    The beginnings of the superstructure built on a cheap dollar store tank body. The superstructure is made of matt board, some plastic bits from the bit box, and an excess GW hatch.

    I then added a few extra bits to make it look less homemade.

    The addition of a few more bits, the hatch doors, and commander’s weapon, etc.

    I then primed them with Army Painter Angel Green paint.

    The vehicles after a coat of Angel Green paint.

    I then decided to do something a little different.  I used some cans to Testor’s texture paint to apply what I hoped would look like dirt and weathering.

    After the application of Testor’s textured paint.

    I think I applied it a little too heavily for my first attempt.  So when I applied this technique to my Russian WWII tank, I went a little lighter.

    Russian infantry in front of two T-26 tanks.

    A closer look at a T-26 with the rare 37mm cannon.

    Russian infantry in front of a KV-2 and KV-1.

    A closer look of the KV-1

    And now another look at the two science fiction vehicles.




    Posted By on November 2, 2018

    The GASLIGHT table at HARCON

    One of the HAWKs is the faculty mentor for the Harford Community College gaming club.  That club runs a gaming day every year, called HARCON.  The HAWKs have supported HARCON for years with games.  This is a small, multi-genre event, so we found years ago, that we are unlikely to get someone to devote four hours to a miniatures game, but they are willing to give it a try for an hour or two.

    The game is afoot!

    For the past three years, we have been running a really large game that allows passers by to participate for an hour or two.  We have en0ugh of our own HAWKs around the table to act as opponents and keep the game moving.

    This year’s theme at HARCON was Steam Punk, so we decided to run a large GASLIGHT game set on Mars with many different factions.

    Venusians attacking Prussians

    Rooman crosswbowmen close assault a British timer clad

    Bicycle lancers battling British infantry for control of the crashed aether flyer.

    Sanwar advancing on the female lancers

    Female hussars with helicopter support advancing toward the Sanwar

    More fighting around the crashed airship

    Ostrich lancers and Roomans advance!

    British infantry, plant men, and Red Martians

    Roomans with support from “the copper tank.”

    Another view of Venusians

    Another view of ostrich lancers

    Green Martians fighting female hussars, including some mounted on “Death Jaws.”

    Though attendance at HARCON seemed to be a little light, the game was fun and successful.  We introduced six new people to miniatures gaming.

    Terrain Crate

    Posted By on November 2, 2018

    Part of the Battlefield Terrain Crate

    I bought into the Mantic Terrain Crate Kickstarter.  I received all of my stuff a couple of months ago.  I have been too busy with work to paint many figures, but I have spent a little time painting some terrain.

    Bookshelves from the Wizard’s Study and Library sets.

    These were fun to paint.  as they are almost entirely dry brushed, I can paint these in the family room, watching Perry Mason with my wife and daughter.  I have a couple more sets to paint, including the rest of the Wizard’s Study and science fiction terrain.

    Azazel’s Bitz Box Unit Contest

    Posted By on October 8, 2018

    Azazel’s Bitz Box hosts mostly painting challenges.  This month’s challenge is for units.  See post here:  https://azazelx.com/2018/09/24/unit-ed-october-2018-community-painting-challenge-also-orctober-orktober/

    So, I decided to finish up a few units that had been partially completed for a while.  These are all related to my Operation Sea Lion games.  Warlord sells the characters from the British sitcom, Dad’s Army (https://us-store.warlordgames.com/collections/dad-s-army).  I have the older Copplestone Dad’s Army figures (not authorized), but I couldn’t resist these too.  The Warlord figures come with both the characters in civilian clothes with identifying armbands and the characters in uniforms.  Here they are:




    Captain Mainwaring




    And here they are altogether:

    Dad’s Army characters in civilian clothes

    Dad’s Army characters in uniform

    And here’s some other stuff I finished recently.

    Dolly Madison rescuing the portrait of George Washington before the British burned down the White House during the War of 1812.  Figure from First Corps.

    Some Reaper power armor infantry

    A gamer

    The brain in a bottle…

    A better view of the brain

    Female defenders of Little Baisley by the Sea, the town I use for all my Sea Lion games.

    Civilians from Little Baisley by the Sea

    Hell hound from Reaper

    And a last look at some defenders of the town. I really like the sculpting of the two figures on the left!